Drug Crimes

Introduction Drugs are related to over 85% of crime in the United States, and any discussion of contemporary issues in the criminal justice system has to address drugs. Drug crimes impact every community and every demographic. Drugs are related to, or the cause of, many types of crime in U.S. society. Combating drugs means dealing with both criminal and social issues. Learning Materials What Constitutes a Drug? One could argue as to what constitutes a drug when discussing drug crimes. For the purposes here, a drug is any mind-altering substance, whether legal or illegal. Therefore, alcohol, marijuana (even in locations where it is legal), and prescription pills are part of this lesson. Drugs are often the cause or outcome of many societal ills, including both criminal and social matters. It is easy to look at a rock of cocaine or a baggie of methamphetamine and recognize it as an illegal and dangerous substance. Alcohol can be obtained legally, and in many jurisdictions marijuana use, at least limited or medicinal use, is legal. Whether a drug is obtained legally or illegally is only the first type of drug crime that plagues the U.S. criminal justice system. Illegal The illegal possession of a drug is a simple matter on the surface. But the person behind the drug, his or her story, and why the addiction or use began is often more complex. Many people turn to drugs to hide from or mask other problems. Some crime victims, such as sex abuse or domestic violence victims, turn to drugs as a form of self-help. The Sale and Distribution of Drugs and Other Drug Crimes The sale and distribution of drugs is another matter. Most would agree that those who profit from selling drugs, and make them available to children, should be punished more harshly than those who simply possess drugs. Other crimes occur as a result of persons trying to obtain drugs, either directly or indirectly. Home invasion robberies of drug dealers are a common
violent crime in which drugs are the motive. These robberies and related crimes are often not reported to police by victims, as they don't want to alert the police to their illegal activities. Still other crimes are of innocent persons who are preyed upon by those seeking to pay for drugs. Many property crimes, including residential home burglaries, car burglaries, thefts, and shopliftings are committed by someone seeking money or items to trade for drugs. These property crimes impact innocent victims directly, and indirectly impact all citizens through the price of consumer goods and insurance rates. Posse Treatment and Punishment Many argue that first-time drug offenses and simple possession cases should not result in incarceration, and that the courts are bogged down because of these cases. They would argue that drug possessors need treatment, not incarceration. Treatment for the motivated drug user is a good consideration and many jails and prisons make such treatment available. Probation supervision of a drug user to include drug treatment, rather than incarceration, is a common consequence. Consider that most all persons who get caught for the first time are not actually offending for the first time; don't confuse a first-time offender with a person getting arrested for the first time. Jails and prisons are full of drug offenders and some would argue this is a social failure. Despite the great economic recession in the United States, the crime rate has gone down, and others would argue that this is due to locked up drug offenders not being available to commit crimes; in other words, police officers are locking up the right people to cut the rate of property and violent crimes. Remember the case of Al Capone, the 1920s Chicago gangster who was responsible for hundreds of crimes of violence and deaths. He went to prison for tax evasion because the government could not accuse him of violent crime due to his reputation and the control he had over communities. Many violent offenders escape prosecution today because witnesses and victims fear cooperating with the police and testifying in court. When those violent offenders are prosecuted on drug crimes, in which there need not be any civilian witnesses, they show up statistically as a simple drug offender when in reality their absence from society is beneficial. Click here for more information on Al Capone. It is likely the issue of drug crimes will continue to be a significant part of every police agency forever. How each agency chooses to deal with drug crimes has a lot to do with how safe the
community remains. When a police agency deals with drug users, drug sellers and resulting crimes it is being proactive in attempting to reduce crime. Tools and Resources Police agencies employ many tools and resources to combat drug crimes from patrol officers to specially trained police K-9s. The following are some examples of these tools: Agencies use undercover detectives, confidential informants, and complex conspiracy or wiretap cases to attack the drug problem. Many agencies find their investigations overlapping and therefore collaborate on them. It is not uncommon for a local police department to begin an investigation on a person who is already under investigation by another police agency, such as the state police or the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Drug Investigations Controversy Drug investigations are not without controversy. Many agencies use confidential informants ,- people who provide information or services to the police in exchange for a benefit. Sometimes this benefit can be a reduction or elimination of a criminal charge, and sometimes it is for payment. Some police agencies engage in reversals, in which instead of posing as drug buyers, they pose as drug sellers. In such a reversal investigation, the undercover police officers act as if they are selling drugs and then arrest the offender and seize his or her money. That seized money often
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